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San Marzano tomatoes at Costco

There is a big batch of La Regina San Marzano tomatoes at the Etobicoke Costco. Big 106 oz cans for $3.99! I usually pay that much (or more) for a 28 oz can at Fiesta Farms. Unreal value, I stocked up.

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  1. Thanks for the tip. I just picked up 4 cans.

    I've never used them, are they really "All that??"


    9 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      Eh I mean, they're tomatoes. They aren't really going to blow any minds. But you'll notice the quality difference - I make a huge batch of Mario Batali's tomato sauce for my freezer, and it's just way better with San Marzanos.

      1. re: Davwud

        I really only notice the difference in recipes where the tomatoes shine on their own and aren't hidden by a ton of spices and other ingredients. But in those recipes, the tomatoes really are lovely.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          Do a taste test. Make the same sauce with Canada choice, Italian (non-San Marzano) and San Marzano tomatoes and I think you'll be able to taste a major difference from one to the next. I can eat San Marzanos straight from the can, whereas Canada choice tomatoes are generally too acidic and cause canker sores in my mouth. Regular Italian tomatoes are pretty good, but with the San Marzanos I can literally taste the sun via their sweetness. I have a source in Windsor that sells them for $2.99-$3.99 a can, depending on the brand. I won't use anything but San Marzanos now, unless I can't find them, in which case I'll drop a notch to Italian imported plum tomatoes.

          1. re: 1sweetpea

            Heading to Windsor this weekend. I used to shop at Le Stella on Erie?

            1. re: spine64

              That's the place, spine64. Ask specifically for San Marzanos, if you don't see them.

            2. re: 1sweetpea

              Okay, these tomatoes are certainly better than the usual stuff we get up here.

              Lately I've been bringing Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes up from down yonder but these are equally as good I think.

              I pureed them and have them in a pot with a couple pounds of meat balls, couple pounds of hot Italian Sausage, some garlic, onion and green pepper (not a lot) a bit of red wine and some herbs from our garden. Should be fantastic.


                1. re: Full tummy

                  Oh god, it was awesome. We pigged out.


          2. re: Davwud

            Davwud, you can really taste the difference if you make your own Pizza. A Margherita with San Marzano tomatoes crushed by hand is outstanding. Other than the fresh basil, that's the main flavour of the pizza. I have to say that a 106 oz. can is going to make one huge mofo of a pizza.

          3. Anyone see these at other Costco locations in town? It would take me a half hour just to drive to Etobicoke.

            5 Replies
            1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

              I can confirm these are also available at the Warden/Ellesmere Costco. They're at the "front" end of the pasta aisle hidden behind a stack of antipasto.

              1. re: sbug206

                Thanks, I'll be there on Friday. I didn't want to travel to Etobicoke for them, and they are not in Ajax.
                Frankly they should have done this years ago, as they do in the U.S. They'll be amazed at how much can be sold when Chowhounds are shopping.

                1. re: sbug206

                  Thanks for that. I may just get there before jayt90, hehehe.

              2. After doing further research. I'm having serious doubts whether these are authentic San Marzano tomatoes. First on the can it says San Marzano BRAND. Authentic San Marzanos are supposed to have a seal with a DOP serial number. These don't. Plus they say CHOICE GRADE. Normally choice is not premium. It would certainly seem to be a case of too good to be true. Although even if it's generic stuff $4 a can is still a bargain.

                On a side note, I found this website selling the same can for 12x the price!


                20 Replies
                1. re: sbug206

                  Oops, that's not for an individual can but a case of 6. Still 50% more expensive than Costco.

                  1. re: sbug206

                    If you really like them then there's no harm in buying them. I have also bought lovely tomatoes that said San Marzano somewhere on the label, but on closer inspection, it seems that some Italian companies are just cashing in on the name, but have no D.O.P. serial number. I try to find the real deal, but if they aren't available, the wanna-be San Marzanos are fine substitutes, in a pinch. I find those ones a bit less beautiful in the can. Either they aren't quite as red or they're a bit less sweet, but only a bit. They're still much better than canned tomatoes from either Canada or the U.S.A., organic or not, IMHO. Just don't overpay for the imitators, thinking that they are the real thing. That's just downright sneaky on the part of the store selling them.

                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                      There is more information on the origin and canning of the tomatoes in the site sbug206 supplied http://www.wholesaleitalianfood.com/d...
                      This company imports a VPN pizza kit to the U.S., and they use these same San Marzano tomatoes (produced and canned in the area, but no DOP seal.)

                      A Wikipedia entry explains the superiority of the San Marzano tomato seed, and volcanic soil, compared to Roma tomatoes used elsewhere.

                      Despite the lack of DOP seal, these cans should be very good, and I expect to stock up in case they run out.

                      1. re: jayt90

                        Well I would suspect that if we all stock up, that'll show 'em that there's a demand for these.
                        I've never use SM but these were certainly superior. Mrs. Sippi was stunned at how good my sauce was.


                    2. re: sbug206

                      As long as the taste is better than what we already get and the price is reasonable, think most Chowhounders will buy it. I know I will.

                      I did some quick research on DOP (c&p below). DOP seems to be a label that costs the manufacturer a "fee"...kinda of link Champagne vs Sparkling Wine. The region in Italy created the DOP label to generate a fee for marketing and to keep the price high IMO. Just my thoughts on DOP vs no DOP...I'm not willing to pay 4x the price for the label.

                      To DOP or not to DOP? - With the San Marzano tomato becoming very important to the local economy, the Italian growers have formed the Consorzio San Marzano to oversee the production and marketing of this tomato variety. Thus, the San Marzano tomato has been given DOP status by the European Union. The main argument for doing this is to protect the San Marzano tomato product from others using this name with different products. . Factories in the San Marzano region which market their products as DOP San Marzano must pay the Consorzio San Marzano to use 2 stamps on their labels; the EU’s DOP stamp and the Corsorzio San Marzano stamp. These fees then contribute to the continued operation of the Consortium.

                      1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

                        Interesting research - I also looked into this brand, as I too noticed the lack of DOP emblem on the can. Seems that most pizza places that make Neapolitan VPN style pizza use the La Regina, I guess it strikes the best balance between value and San Marzano taste.

                        1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

                          I bought numerous bushels of San Marzano toms at Colangelos this year. Have yet to dive into any of the sauce bottles. I wonder if there is much (any?) difference between the variety when grown there and the variety when grown here.

                          I can confirm they are pain to work with cus they are so small, unless you puree them through a machine.

                          1. re: Paulustrious

                            They say the soil has something to do with it.
                            This all seems much like Vidalia Onions. They're, by law, sweet onions grown in Vidalia County, Georgia. Anything that is the same varietal but not grown in Vidalia are just sweet onions. Are they different?? Who knows??


                            1. re: Davwud

                              Right...maybe they're unique, and maybe it's all about the branding.

                                1. re: Davwud

                                  Just to confirm - they are still at Warden / Ellesmere Costco. Picked up 6 cans. I did notice though that they are whole and not seeded - at least they didn't say they are seeded on the can).

                                  Lots of them left.

                                  1. re: Paulustrious

                                    I bought 4 cans this afternoon about 3 pm at Warden and Ellesmere. Lots left. They say they have added Basil

                                    1. re: Herne

                                      Added basil and tomato puree/juice is an export feature to avoid certain taxes. I don't think it's done for flavor.

                                      1. re: jayt90

                                        That's a new one on me. Where did you come across that?

                                        (and is it an import or export tax?)

                                        1. re: Paulustrious

                                          I think it is for canned tomatoes destined for the U.S. Less import tax if the tomatoes are supplied in tomato juice or puree, and the basil is thrown in as an extra. I remember this from a thread in eG, maybe their search engine will find it.
                                          In any case it is possible Costco is importing these cans into their eastern U.S. terminal, rather than Halifax or Laval, before they arrive here.

                            2. re: Paulustrious

                              We have grown our own San Marzano with seeds we brought back from Italy. It is definitely the soil and climate. Not near the same thing. I like buying SM packed in Italy better for all the work and not the flavour of growing and preserving them.

                          2. re: sbug206

                            I just came back from Costco and checked these out. Although the price at $3.99 is very very good, they are not San Marzano tomatoes. It's a brand. My local Italian shop sells this brand as well at pretty much the same price as their other brands of canned tomatoes including Pastene (around $1.89/$1.99 for the regular size cans). They sell Pastene San Marzano canned tomatoes at $3.99. So...good price for canned tomatoes.

                            1. re: lula

                              The cans you question contain tomatoes grown in San Marzano, and they are of the San Marzano plum variety. They are less expensive than San Marzano D.O.P. labelled tomatoes, but essentially similar. Some producers want to provide the same quality at a lower price, and by avoiding the D.O.P. licensing, and the EU fees for D.O.P., these cans are available at an attractive price to big buyers such as the warehouse club.
                              I have purchased several cans and found they make a rich tomato sauce .

                            2. re: sbug206

                              Is there a resolution to the DOP serial number issue?

                              1. re: Herne

                                The Costco product is non-DOP, Choice, from a canning plant in San Marzano, naming its product by the name of the town. The can says Italian peeled tomatoes, so they could get supplies from outside the area, but that hasn't been confirmed.
                                I tasted them against Emma Choice San Marzano DOP ($3.49 for 28 oz. ) and couldn't say one was inferior to the other. Both were good, but Emma was costly in comparison.
                                Perhaps someone can do a comparison with a San Marzano DOP rated higher than Choice, if available here.

                            3. I made my standard simple tomato sauce with a can of these tonight, to compare since that's what I generally make for pasta sauce. I could tell the difference at dinner for sure. But now some hours later, after leaving the sauce sitting idly in the kitchen for a few hours and microwaving a small bowl now... mannnn, so much better than normal. Much more sweet.

                              I pureed them in the can using a hand blender before adding to the pot. I usually crush them by hand, but thought I'd puree this time. No complaints. Didn't puree the onions though, and I added ground beef, so it still had some texture.

                              Totally recommend you grab some of these. I was at the Queensway location.

                              1. The big can of San Marzanos at Pasquales is DOP, sells for $8.50, not a bad price.

                                1. For $1.99 you can buy the 28oz cans of this same brand, La Regina Di San Marzano, at SLM. For those of us (like me) for whom Costco is too far away, and the giant cans are a giant hassle, it's a reasonable deal.

                                  26 Replies
                                  1. re: simplepieman

                                    They are very sweet - a bit too much so for my Italian FIL. I, on the other hand, like them. I don't drink soda, eat deserts or have sugar in my tea. I have to get my sugar kick somewhere.

                                    Incidentally, they were still at the Warden / Ellesmere store as of Dec 3.

                                    1. re: Paulustrious

                                      I stopped eating canned tomatoes a long time ago because of the acid, as 1sweetpea mentioned above. I picked up some of these today and I'm looking forward to giving them a try.

                                      1. re: simplepieman

                                        If they are not too acidic a bit of sodium bicarbonate should reduce the acidity, at the expense of taste.

                                      2. re: Paulustrious

                                        I also kicked my sugar habit a few months ago, haven't looked back. It's not necessarily the sugar per se, but if I have cans of coke here I'll have like 4-5 a day. Can't be good. For maybe 6 months now I pretty much only drink water and milk. Lost 5 lbs too, with no other changes to my diet, and I'm skinny to begin with.

                                        I did find these tomatoes considerably sweeter than normal, and didn't find them acidic.

                                        1. re: SocksManly

                                          Tried a can of Unico San Marzano TYPE tomatoes tonight. Really good and at No Frills at the regular price. Fantastic buy.

                                          1. re: Herne

                                            Depending on how you fell about it, the Unico is Canada Choice for "Product of Canada", also topped up with tomato puree. Nothing from Italy in it.

                                            Unico uses Romas and Plums, you can do better each Fall on your own....

                                            1. re: Dean Tudor

                                              I've become a total snob for Italian tomatoes. San Marzanos are my favourite, but any of the tomatoes grown in that region will do for me, though some brands are better than others. I get them for very reasonable prices here in Windsor, but some cans have tomatoes that are more red or that contain more puree vs. juice. None are bad, but each differs somewhat. I find the most consistency among the real thing (true San Marzanos), but they are scarce around here at times.

                                              When I say I've become a snob, what I mean is that I will not purchase any canned tomatoes that are labelled Canada Choice or Product of Canada, even if they are organic. That goes for organic canned products from the US as well. They may be organic, but the tomatoes themselves are inferior ... and so acidic!!! It's an instant mouthful of canker sores for me. I'd rather pay more for the Italian sweeties. I think it's the somewhat volcanic soil in which they're grown, combined with the warm sunny climate, that produces such sweet tomatoes. Be it Pastene San Marzano style or the real deal, they're head and shoulders above anything canned on North American soil. I'm sorry to say it, because I'd much rather support Canadian farmers and companies, but it's a matter of quality for me. I'll buy Kingsville and Leamington hothouse tomatoes fresh, but for the canned beauties, it's Italian all the way.

                                              It's no different for me with cheeses. I wouldn't buy a Canadian brie, camembert or feta, if I can get imported French brie or camembert or Greek, Bulgarian or Macedonian feta. There's just no comparison. I would, however, choose several Quebec goat cheeses over imports, because the quality is top-notch, especially with the raw milk cheeses. I'm a sucker for la creme de la creme. I won't win any friends in the locavore crowd, but c'est la vie. I like what I like. If ventresca tuna from Spain tastes better than Clover Leaf solid white, guess which one I'm going to buy, assuming I can afford the hefty price tag?

                                              1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                Totally agree with 1sweetpean! I also go for quality when it comes to food. As they say: "you are what you eat".

                                                1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                  Funny but a blind test I did last year with simple sauces made from pricey imports and domestic Unico San Marzanos and cheaper Italian imports didn't jibe with your take, 1sweetpea. Admittedly, neither of us bring much science to bear but you might be a tad less categorical, no?

                                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                                    I agree with 1sweetpea. I also find Canadian canned tomatoes too acidic, and now that I've discovered the Italian imports - which really are delicious - I can once again make a passable spag bol at home.

                                                    Kagemusha, what exactly were the results of your blind taste test?

                                                    1. re: simplepieman

                                                      No one could tell the difference between cheaper Italian imported and the premium Unico San Marzanos; 1 out of 10 could taste a meaningful difference between these and 3 buck+/can imports. 1sweetpea and I have different impressions, though neither is any more objective than the other, given our less-than-rigorous testing protocols. Besides, the can-to-can chemistry of all these tomatoes likely varies annually.

                                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                                        Take yourselves over to Buddha Pie pizza and purchase one of the cans of Valroso tomatoes he sells. I love San Marzano's but those Valroso's are vastly superior if you like the kind of sweet tomato that San Marzano's are.

                                                        1. re: Boodah

                                                          I agree largely with Boodah. The Valrosas are indeed nice, but comparable to the San Marzano Choice Non-DOP at Costco. Bhudda sells them for $6.99 (?) a large can. The more they sell, the more he can buy and thus lower his costs, passing on the per can savings to those who buy the cans.

                                                        2. re: Kagemusha

                                                          Okay, just for fun I picked up a can each of the La Regina Di San Marzano and the Unico San Marzano Type and just now did a side-by-side taste test right out of the cans: stick in fork, pull out whole tomato, eat. The Unicos are larger, stringier, tangier, and seedier, and the La Reginas have a better texture and a deeper, richer tomato taste. Now it's quite possible that, once cooked into a simple sauce, the taste differences are negligible, but frankly I'm skeptical. For me it's no contest - the La Reginas win hands down. I'm going to stick with the fake imported San Marzanos over the fake domestic San Marzanos.

                                                            1. re: simplepieman

                                                              OK but just keep in mind that sample variation could push you back to domestic. Unicos can be very close to imports, sometimes not. I've tried both medium and high-priced imports and noticed similar can-to-can variations over time. For me, who doesn't scarf 'em can-to-mouth, the variations are overall insufficient to warrant $3-4/can versus $1.50 for premium domestics. I'll put the savings towards better vino any day...

                                                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                Well, when you put it that way, it doesn't seem like so much fun anymore...

                                                                Anyway, the Unicos were $1.69, the La Reginas were $1.99.

                                                        3. re: Kagemusha

                                                          I never mentioned a word about science. ;-) I function on tastebuds and passion when it comes to food. I like what I like. When it comes to tomato sauces, I do whatever is necessary to avoid a mouth full of canker sores, which are inevitable when acidic tomatoes are used. I never have this problem with the Italian canned tomatoes I buy, be they Pastene, San Marzano wannabes or the real deal (DOP). Canadian and US canned tomatoes wreck my mouth every time. Scientific? Not so much, but for my mouth, it's a disaster, so I'll happily stick with my biases and hope nobody is offended that I'm not supporting Canadian growers and processors for this one ingredient.

                                                        4. re: 1sweetpea

                                                          Having canned mine and been raised in that tradition for my whole life, I must say that homemade preserving are the best ONLY if the tomatoes are of quality. If they have been oversprayed, waxed and riped after picking, they will be far less superior in quality. My MIL won't eat anything else. Funny though, when I use La Nina brand imported tomatoes (purchased at Costco US for $4 big can) she always says that my tomatoes taste so fresh and remind her of Itay. That is a secret between DH and me because she has preconceived notions and that is one fight we are not willing to take on. However, when we have cooked together and she has purchased the good Unico, no luck there. I find those tomatoes and most of the others that are not imported, whole taste to tomato pastey (I know, not a word).
                                                          When we go to Windsor, we do go to La Stella and buy the smaller (about 20 oz) imported, DOP peeled tomatoes by the case. Granted they are a little pricier, but definitely worth the cost because our family still makes tomato sauce that is not laden with dried herbs. Some simple basil out of our garden that has been put in the freezer and we are good to go.
                                                          We don't like paying more...not like we're "well off", but we do the math. Even if the cost is double and we divide the cost per person, how much more is the really good quality meal costing us? Far less than going to a good restaurant.

                                                          1. re: itryalot

                                                            Although you are replying to sweetpea, you are missing the point of OP here: that tomatoes packed in San Marzano are of very good quality and in an #10 can (106 oz. for $4.), the first time this type of value has been noted on these boards in the Canadian market.

                                                            1. re: jayt90

                                                              Yes, but like many, they are San Marzano brand tomatoes, which are very different from San Marzano tomatoes (the actual type of tomato). I do acknowledge that it is cheap but like others have mentioned was stating that these are two different products. I am not the only one to state my own personal opinion on such types of tomatoes I think.

                                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                                jayt90, I smell a San Marzano showdown or shootout a comin'. Should be someway to reach a civilized consensus about what's what. Agree that the Costco cans are deals.

                                                                1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                  Yes, I'm going to do a review.
                                                                  But initially, from the nutrition labels, I find that Emma San Marzano DOP, 28 oz for $3.49 at Highland Farms, has the most Vitamin A and C (15% and 45%), Costco somewhat less, (8% and 20%) and Unico way less (4% and 6%)
                                                                  That should be some indication of sunlight, soil, and canning conditions.

                                                                  1. re: jayt90

                                                                    Or maybe very different testing standards and procedures. Probity isn't much of a virtue among some Italian food producers judging from the pasta price fixing scandal and olive oil issues a few years ago.

                                                          2. re: Dean Tudor

                                                            But you can't get better tasting Canadian-type tomatoes than the Unico San Marzanno-type.

                                                            1. re: Herne

                                                              Seen them at Sobey's (Queensway/South Kingsway) for $3.99/can

                                                  2. Just to throw in my two cents on this one...

                                                    Personally, I've struggled with this issue. When I was a restauranteur, I would invest in the San Marzanos only for pizza and simple fresh marinara (and I had to charge more, of course) but in most of my home cooking now, the complexity of flavours I add to sauces, etc. cover up most of the fresh taste, and made the extra cost questionable. Kinda like using the good whisky in a drink mixed with coke - can you tell? Probably not?

                                                    On the other hand all that sodium and citric acid in the Unico/Pastene/etc. tomatoes adds a metallic taste that I've never liked, and gave me too much acidity. It was a problem, until....

                                                    Longos :-)

                                                    Check out their Longo's brand tomatoes in the can.

                                                    I began to notice comments about "freshness" and "authenticity" whenever I used Longos tomatoes vs. other brands including the $6 San Marzanos, so I've since done numerous taste-tests (in various dishes, not straight from the can, because I don't eat them raw :-) and the Longos tomatoes kick butt, when used as I typically use them - diced or crushed or ground tomatoes for pizza, marinara and for various bolognese meat sauces.

                                                    I assume it's the combo of good quality tomatoes from the Longo's farms without all the sodium and additives of the "big name" brands that makes the difference.

                                                    Check them out, they're cheap, and my experience with them has been really great.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: TorontoTips

                                                      FYI, Sorta related/unrelated:

                                                      Went to Buddha Pie (Annette & Runnymede) and the owner mentioned he sold Valaroso "Robusto" Style Pear Tomatoes for $7

                                                      1. re: 5andman

                                                        I've had those, much better than San Marzanos in my opinion. How big is the can?